Merely Mangram

SURVIVING is the name of the game, literally in the case of the graphically attractive newie from US Gold. Survivor (£7.95) was written by Topo Soft, a Spanish company. I don’t know whether the purple prose of the inlay stems from its hot Mediterranean blood or from the colder hype climes of Brum — ‘Floating somewhere in space, circling a long dead planet is a huge spaceship loaded with life forms... creeping along the walkways, a solitary creature fights for its own survival. The creature is the end product of a million years of evolution of a dying world’ — but eat your heart out Arthur C Clarke!

Survivor screenshot

You’re the creature, endeavouring to perpetuate your race. Among the 142 ornate locations lie ten pods which should be placed within incubators. Depositing pods replenishes energy levels, but nibbling on one of the little engineers roaming the ship will do just as well. A cross between Alien and one of Jeff Minter’s expectorating camels, the creature’s defence is acid saliva, which it spits at anything looking remotely harmful. (Kano airport in northern Nigeria used to boast a stationary camel that chewed cud all day long, cunningly ejecting the smelly stuff from the side of its mouth at disembarking passengers. I throw this in as a mere, but interesting, aside, and to say that whatever Mr Minter may think, spitting camels are not nice).

Ocean’s big four for the summer certainly offer a better prospect than the weather (though it’s hot and clammy as I write). Stickiest, and certainly the sweatiest, will be Renegade. A lot more work has been done on the game since I last saw It. The Amstrad version is complete (and looks just like the coin-op original), but on the Spectrum it is, if anything, slightly better. Why sweaty? Well after all the fuss over Palace’s Barbarian...

Then there’s Athena, which is most certainly not about buying cards from a well-known and hideously trendy gift shop, but a conversion from the SNK arcade coin-op. Set against a mythological backdrop of demons and bizarre creatures, you play gorgeous pouting Athena, a rampaging goddess with a penchant for smashing the scenery to bits in search of new armour. ‘Stunningly addictive,’ says Ocean, but we’ll check it out next month.

Also from SNK comes Tank — Yo! Hell on the highway! Armoured arcade action! Hut! Get down, this is def! Take the Field Commander in his tank across jungles, swamplands and deserts and... what have I forgotten? — oh yes, kill everything in sight.

And then, before you’ve even got started, it’s Game Over (the one with the ad containing naughty bits some magazines have been covering up). It’s the second Dinamic game to be published by Ocean. The action takes place in a far off galaxy where a once-loyal Lieutenant has joined rebel forces to fight against his cruel Queen. His mission is to destroy the Queen’s domain and end her purple rain. It begins in the planet’s prison where the loyal lefty secures essential minerals and destroys the place, then moves into the jungle before he reaches and infiltrates the Queen’s palace to blow it to smithereens.

Of the four, I’d put my money firmly on Renegade which is, simply, a disgracefully fun game. However, it’s also in a more advanced state than the others, much more so than Denton’s Tibet for Ocean, a game so long in the developing to date that it’ll only ever be for the 128. Still, to tide you over until the full reviews, take a look at the screen shot of Game Over and see if you can decide who that fat green lumox is on the right-hand side. Suggestions on a postcard to: Just Who Is Robin Candy Lookalike? Comp...

Mercenary screenshot

And talking of Mr Candy, Mercenary from Novagen is just about to be revealed on the Spectrum. This Paul Woakes creation has taken ages to arrive after receiving acclaim in all its other incarnations. A 21st century soldier of fortune crash-lands on the planet Targ, where he becomes embroiled in the continuing conflict between two forces — the Palayars and the Mechanoids. The objective is simply to escape the planet alive. You can fly In a variety of craft and explore Targ’s mysterious underground complexes, collecting useful objects to aid your quest.

Targ is huge, and exploration is essential. The enthralling movement of the vector graphics on the other machines has been an essential quality of the game — and Novagen say the Spectrum version is no different.

Grand Prix Simulator

Carefree, mobile, and lethal, the software industry’s answer to Bonnie and Clyde, Michael Baxter and Sarah Donnovan, recently held a party to celebrate, amongst other things, the advent of Grand Prix Simulator by Code Masters. Inspired by the coin-op Super Sprint (to which, incidentally, Activision have the rights), it’s a one- or two-player race around a track viewed from overhead. Originally on the Amstrad, it shot to number one In the charts.

With 14 levels of difficulty it’s bound to keep you up into the early hours of the morning. Full review next month — hopefully.

For those with Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s humour (like Mike Dunn, who thinks headbands tied round the wrist are pretty neat) Mirrorsoft’s autumn release should be right up your street. Called Moon Strike, it features your archenemy Professor Humphrey Bogus, inventor of the digital teabag (and, incidentally, a relative of another well-known archenemy, Dr Blitzen, from two previous Mirrorsoft games). He’s just come up with this doobrie called a Tachyon Vortex, parked it on the far-side of the moon and, like any self-respecting mad scientist, intends to destroy the world with it. You might think this would be good enough a reason to enter the fray, but in fact your real purpose is to beat up Bogus for the terrible things he said about your grandmother.

Moon Strike is a vertically scrolling, shoot-’em-up from the New Zealand team of Binary Innovation, and stars pizzas and coins as the opposition — there’s also a cameo appearance by Mona Lisa. Can’t say fairer than that.

Death Widh screenshot

Gremlin, after playing around with cute characters such as Bounder, Thing and Monty Mole have now gone hard and mean three times over in Death Wish III, their big summer release. Licensed from the ubiquitous film starring Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey, New York’s vigilante de-worms the Big Apple.

By the fact that he’s armed with a 475 Wildey Magnum, pump-action shot gun, machine gun, rocket launcher and a mean mouth you can tell he’s no wimp and means trouble. Gangster style shootings mount as he wanders the streets, but shooting at the local cops isn’t wise, they start having wishes for death for him. Kersey’s greatest ally Is his unshakable belief that the fate of decent, clean-living, Twinky-buying Americans is in his hands — but so’s the multitude of weapons with which he executes his death wish.

Yogi Bear screenshot

From mean streets to cuddly wildlife parks, the setting for Yogi Bear, Piranha’s first cartoon licence. Cartoon characters haven’t always come across too well on the computer — we’ve had a disappointing Asterix, a pretty, but uninspiring Rupert, and Fred Flintstone only raised a few chortles. Perhaps Piranha will finally delight. .. Playing Yogi, true to the cartoon series, you travel the wilds of Jellystone Park raiding grub from picnic baskets while avoiding that familiar plague, Ranger Smith, who’s out to stop your greedy antics.

There’s not only the Ranger to contend with, but also the devilish map which includes many hidden passages — some helpful, some not. The game’s ultimate object is to rescue your little buddy Boo Boo, who’s been captured (although I’m not too sure who by yet). If you want to be one of the first to save Yogi’s lil’ pal then look out for a smarter than the average competition next month.

Finally, there’s Quicksilva’s first major release of the year, The Tube (£6.95), which has been done by Gannon Designs up in Scotland. No, it’s not a licensed version of the infamous TV music programme with an animated Jools swearing his way through garbled introductions (though there’s a game for you...), it’s a fast, scrolling shoot-’em-up set in a tube. Argus say the Spectrum hardware has been pushed to its limits with The Tube’s many new features which have been incorporated in an innovative way. One factor it does have in common with TV’s The Tube is music, written by the prolific David Whittaker, who is said to have developed a new system that works on both 48K and 128 versions, using the machines to full effect.

Fast, horizontally scrolling news from Firebird says that a biggie shoot-’em-up called Sidewize is headed this way on their Gold label. It’s been written by the Odin team, and Firebird’s Colin Fuidge says, ‘It’s fantastic shoot-’em-up with 60 trillion sprites, amazing parallax scrolling, and it’s the best thing since French style yoghurt.’ But what would he know? I’ve seen several screens in action, and it certainly looks like a powerful piece of software. No release date as yet.

FEEL FREE

FREESCAPE (DRILLER)
Incentive Software

For once this is a preview of a technique and not, strictly speaking, of a game. When it arrives sometime in September, the game will be Driller, but it’s the amazing new 3-D technique called Freescape, which Incentive’s programmers have been slaving over since last September, that makes the game possible, and you can see some evidence of how it works for the first time, here in CRASH. But a warning — the screen shots seen her are from an Amstrad, simply because that’s the most advanced version as yet. Incentive’s Ian Andrew says that the Spectrum will look very much the same however.

Freescape is described as using ‘walk through filled three-dimensional graphics’. The playing areas are all held in an astonishingly tiny amount of memory, thanks to advanced compression techniques, and they exist in a very real space. As you move through the landscapes of walls, buildings and objects, everything is displayed in real perspective as you would see it if you were really there. Walking through a doorway takes you inside a building. As you go through you can ‘pan’ up to see the door lintel sweeping over your head, you can look round, see steps and climb them (unless the ceiling’s too low, when you bump your head and have to crouch down), turn back at the top and see the door you came through.

Freescape allows for two modes of transport, a tank for low-level trundling, or, if you reach a hangar, open the doors and dock with the aircraft, you can fly over the landscapes, banking, turning and swooping with enormous freedom.

On-screen telltales inform of angle of view, elevation and movement steps. Movement can be in very large steps, or ones so tiny that the view changes almost imperceptibly. Calculations indicate an almost limitless nuumber of separate views are possible — certainly billions and billions, making the 32,000 of Lords of Midnight seem like a six-screen platform game. All these views mean that movement speed is restricted, although it’s much faster than, say, The Sentinel, but Ian’s confident that by launch time, they will have improved even that considerably. As it is, it’s very effective and generates a tremendous atmosphere.

Driller itself is still under development, but it should put in an appearance at the PCW Show in September. More details when we have them, in the meantime we’ll leave you with an example of how the perspective changes as you enter the gateway of the demo world of Freescape.

Freescape screenshot
Freescape screenshot
Freescape screenshot
Freescape screenshot
Freescape screenshot
Freescape screenshot
Freescape screenshot
Freescape screenshot

MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN

RIGHTO CHAPS! Listen up! A rather decent game’s coming out to bat from the Palace Software chappies back home in Blighty. Called Stifflip & Co. Written by Paul Norris and Rupert Bowater of the new programming team Binary Vision, previously The Electronic Pencil Company. Spiffing stuff, what.

Stifflip & Co is an icon-driven arcade adventure set in the closing days of the great British Empire — days when only mad dogs and Englishmen went out in the midday sun, and not hordes of Club 18-30 holiday makers. Split into two independently loaded sections — Out For The Count and The Final Countdown — the story follows the adventures of Sebastian Stifflip end his trio of mad-cap followers: Professor Braindeath, Colonel R G Bargie and Miss Palmyra Primbottom.

They’ve teamed up to defeat the evil Count Chameleon and his frightful Rubbertronic ray, a ray so devastating it could neutralise the starch in winged collars, loosen upper lips, lower moral and sexual standards and, worse, seriously effect the bounce of a cricket ball. The bounder must be stopped.

Stifflip + Co screenshot

The player controls all four characters as they interact with one another, solving problems to accomplish the mission. Actions are displayed in traditional comic book fashion, so that when a character moves from one location to another or completes an action the ‘page’ rolls up and over, or is ripped off, to reveal on the ‘page’ beneath the consequence of the action.

Icons on the right-hand side dictate actions and include chinwag — talk and trade with other characters; fisticuffs — fight off the Count’s henchmen who pop up regularly; beetle off — movement; do one’s stuff — act; state of play — take stock; and change batter — swap between characters.

If one of the quartet is ambushed the screen flicks to the fight sequence. It’s an unusual but entertaining fighting technique, but if you don’t feel like a dust up, there’s an additional screen which allows you to turn tail and run — but what kind of cad would you be to do that?

Stifflip & Co should be ready for review next issue, until then — keep stiff.